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Family bears cross of crime

His 16-year-old son refuses to step out of home. His wife, sobbing every few minutes, braces for the possibility of him getting the death sentence. His extended family fears facing fellow villagers.

Ansar Ali, 36, has been behind bars since his arrest on June 8, leaving his family to cope with the shock and shame of his alleged involvement in the gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old college girl in Barasat.

Ansar’s single-storey house at Matiagacha, an expanse of green in North 24-Parganas, stands out not just for the infamy its owner has just earned. It is one of the few concrete structures in a village where most of the houses are semi-huts with galvanised iron sheets or tiles for roofs.

The house also displays the other trappings that mark the family out as being better off than most — curtains hanging on doors, a TV, a showcase and sundry furniture that the rest lack.

When Metro visited the village, around 30km from Calcutta, on Friday morning, it wasn’t difficult to find out where Ansar lived. “That’s the house of Ansar Ali…. He is in jail now,” said a boy in his late teens, pointing to the house on the other side of a pond.

A dirt track off the metalled main road connecting the village with Rajarhat-Taki Road leads to the house. A small stationery shop stands opposite it.

“I am Ansar’s elder brother. Tell me, what do you want?” asked the 40-something man seated inside the shop.

On hearing about the purpose of the visit, he gestured for everyone to follow him into the house. Within minutes, Ansar’s immediate family — his wife and two sons — trooped into the room.

Ansar’s daughter, a toddler, was inside, his elder brother said, breaking the silence in the room.

Ki bolbo, bolun (Tell me, what do I say)?” mumbled the woman in a cotton printed sari with her head covered.

Throughout the 10-minute conversation, she didn’t once lift her gaze from the floor. Her elder son, who passed Madhyamik this year, said what his mother probably wanted to.

“I have not stepped out of our courtyard since the day the police arrested my father. None of my friends has turned up either to ask whether I would go to play football,” the boy said.

Ansar’s other son, a Class VIII student in a local school, stood next to his mother. He didn’t utter a word.

Villagers told Metro that there was no social boycott of the family, though most people were maintaining their distance from them. Some said the family wouldn’t need anybody’s help to eke out a living in the absence of Ansar, who had recently taken a fishery on lease.

Ansar’s wife seemed already resigned to life without her husband around. “Onake police dhorechhe, aain ja saja debe, amader setai matha pete nite hobe (The police have arrested him, we will have to accept the punishment meted out by law),” she said.

Was she worried that if convicted, her husband’s sentence could be the severest one under law? “He will have to pay for his sins,” she replied, breaking down.

None of the family members said even once that Ansar might be innocent or that he had been framed. They didn’t point fingers at his six co-accused either, five of them arrested along with him.

If Ansar’s family had anything to blame for their misfortune, it was his habit of drinking hooch, which they say increased after he took up the job of a caretaker at a project site in Kamduni village around two years ago.

“He had lately been staying away even at night. But on Friday (the day the rape and murder occurred), he did come home for lunch. He was reeking of hooch,” Ansar’s brother recounted.

Ansar allegedly targeted the victim after joining the rest of the accused at the project site after lunch.

The victim was a resident of Kamduni, separated from Matiagacha by a swathe of waterbodies that can be seen from Ansar’s home. Although there has been no protest march in the village yet, the incident has drawn condemnation on this side of the waterbody as well.

Ansar’s wife, in her early 30s, said she read in the newspapers about the brutality that the victim had to face before she was murdered. “She must have died the most painful death,” the woman said.